Success Leaves Clues

My Journey Into Successful Entrepreneurship and Finding Mentors
“Success leaves clues…. …To find those clues, you’ve got to tune in!” —Tony Robbins, Success Leaves Clues

Quoted by Kolby Kolibas in the #AgencySummit.

The Key to Success?

Model the best.

Model strategies that work. 

I shared this on LinkedIn. I joined the Agency Summit as soon as I saw the email from Chris Do and The Futur. I’ve been taking notes and sharing the gems from each session on different platforms. I shared the LinkedIn gems on LinkedIn. Duh! I shared the information from the first session I listened to on Twitter. And, I shared a gem or two on Facebook.

This LinkedIn post lead me down a rabbit hole, but this time it was a good one! The speaker, Kolby Kolibas quoted Tony Robbins. “Success leaves clues.” I stopped the video and searched for a full article on this…by Tony himself.

There’s no need to quote the entire article. You can go read it for yourself. I also encourage you to do a search on that quote and read the other articles associated with it just in the first page of the search results. Each article gives a slightly different perspective, but they all agree this is true.

Text that reads Hello with a smiley face drawn below

How My Shift Started

Months ago, I had also started a blog post that was meant to be an open letter to my niece. First, it was meant to encourage her. Second, I was thanking her.

My niece had gone to a camp and came home to tell her mom that she didn’t think she wanted to go back next year. She said she was the worst player at the camp. While it broke my heart that she was discouraged, I started passionately telling (screaming may be more appropriate but not in a mean way—haha!) her mom that she should go back. The fact that she was the worst player there was a good thing, and it meant she was really being challenged. The other campers were apparently top players in the state. When I heard that I was even more emphatic.

“Tell her she has to go back! Tell her that to be the best she’s got to play with the best!”

Of course, her mom isn’t an idiot and had already expressed those same sentiments to her daughter. I was preaching to the choir.

Smarter Not Harder

Then, it occurred to me that I needed to do the same thing. I knew I was working hard to grow my business, but I was doing more hard work and less smart work. It wasn’t long after that conversation that I attended my first Mentor Morning with Ted Leonhardt in the fall of 2016. Let me add that I was already a huge fan (watching YouTube videos the year before of him explaining his process) but had no idea he was having these meetings regularly! What a gold mine! Not only did just being in his presence and the other creatives inspire and invigorate me and my business, but it set the bar for 2017.

After my first experience at Mentor Morning, I used that to set my goals for 2017. Most were vague because I was (and am) still learning how to be an entrepreneur, but the clearest was that if I’m going to spend a few hours of my day somewhere, it’s going to be with industry leaders, those who are already successful. 2017 would be the year I surround myself with high quality, successful people, leaders, and creatives. That meant abandoning lots of groups I had been active in during 2016. 2017 had to be not the next rung on a ladder but multiple rungs! Satisfaction with “better than the previous year” wouldn’t be enough. I had to make smart choices and connections to make 2017 significantly better than 2016.

All of this started when I wanted my niece to return to the camp to compete against the best. Thank you, Delaney! You inspired me to do more than I would have done. You inspired me to do things I am not normally comfortable doing. You pushed me to surround myself with the best and push myself to be my best.

Mistakes have been plentiful.

My passion often gets the best of me. However, I admit that swallowing my pride and admitting when I’ve goofed has actually been relieving! I feel so good for facing those mistakes. In fact I’ll share one right now about how it may have hurt and how it has actually helped.

This summer, I learned that the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber’s program, Spaceworks, had awarded a big creative project to an agency that wasn’t in Tacoma, Pierce County, or even Washington. I was livid! Why? I know for a fact there are highly qualified candidates right in downtown Tacoma. Let’s pretend those weren’t a good fit. There are agencies in Pierce County, Gig Harbor, Puyallup, Federal Way, etc. that may have been qualified too. Let’s pretend those weren’t a good fit either. So, we expand the radius. There’s no way Spaceworks couldn’t find tons of qualified agency candidates in Seattle and King County! There’s so much talent in this great state of Washington, that I found it hard to believe they couldn’t find one or a team of agencies qualified to tackle their creative project together. I wrote an email expressing my disappointment to the chamber and even shared it in a Facebook group for the Creative Alliance of Tacoma.

My Oops!

My “Oops!” came two months later during a chamber roundtable, which I love and encourage all business owners in the area to attend. (This group/meeting is how I was introduced to the chamber and what lead me to join in mid-2016.) Once again, I was passionately expressing myself and this time to the group about buying locally. I have found and still find it odd that in such a populated area ranked by Etsy as the “Top Maker City” in 2016 that buying locally wasn’t and isn’t a big deal. There isn’t pride in this specific area. I’ve witnessed and experienced pride of being in the Pacific Northwest, the Puget Sound in general, and for being cheaper than Seattle for cost of living and doing business. Yet, what I’ve seen most people and businesses do is purchase online or go to Seattle or Portland for their top tier work. There’s top tier here, but few know or hear about it. Plus, few seem to care because, as Rusty George puts it, “The foreign exotic is more appealing than the backyard sure thing.”

Mistakes breed opportunity.

Was I aware of how many proposals they received? No. In fact, I wasn’t aware of much more than what I have just stated—an outsider was hired to do an inside job. A chamber employee then called me out. I should say that she did so tactfully and to the group, even though she and I knew it was largely aimed at me. She did reference my email but only someone who had read it would know. Then, she asked, “How much do you buy online? Do you buy everything online? Are you buying all of your supplies online? Is what you’re buying online at least from a local business?” Ouch! I DO buy online—often! When I buy online, I do not pay attention to the business’s location.

Nice thrust and parry, Jennifer!

I was had. My hypocrisy was exposed for all to see. “You’re absolutely right.” That was my first response. Then, the group had a wonderful discussion about how to facilitate buying locally for unique products that we cannot easily find locally. Contact the businesses that “could” get those products for us! We’d identify and buy from a reseller. Jennifer’s response to my ranting email was absolutely perfect! My “mistake” wasn’t the catalyst; it was Jennifer’s response that created a dialogue most of us hadn’t had. We all admitted we purchase supplies online from outsiders but could and should be purchasing them from local businesses. Had I not made that mistake, Jennifer may not have gifted us with the discussion.

(Look for another blog post soon related to buying from and supporting local businesses.)

Lessons for Next Time?

Do I still wish they had awarded the project to an agency in the area 100%. But, I do know who all submitted responses and what their experience in that particular market segment is. It’s not my business to know either. I’m not completely wrong on this. Even though I probably should have done more homework and calmed down before sending the email, my point was still made. I think, even though they recognize my extremely shallow knowledge on the project and proposals received, that it’s a big deal. My hope is that the next big creative project RFP will include the chamber reaching out to local agencies and not just releasing the RFP. (Am I in dreamland on this one?)

To close on this particular mistake turned opportunity, I leave you with this line we’ve all heard in some form or another. I first heard it when Pastor Earl at Shoreline Christian Center in Austin, TX, was delivering his message about character some time in 2007 or 2008.

“It’s not that you fall that defines your character. It’s not that you get up after you fall. It’s how you get up that defines your character.”

I give an empathic “Amen!” to that!

Getting back on track, let’s surround ourselves with those who are more successful than we are—whatever that may be.

Different Kinds of Successes

Angie Whitten of Harmony Photography is a great example of many things, but I want to focus on a few. First, her business is only three years old. Yet, she’s far more successful than most photographers I see online in the Facebook groups. She’s excellent at the business side, which is unique for creatives. In the two years since I started following her on social media and the 18 months since I’ve met her in person, I’ve seen significant growth in not just her business but her skills. She’s committed to learning. That’s what sets her apart. That’s what defines her and her business. She’s taken certification courses, not because clients look for certification but because she craved the knowledge. She regularly attends photography classes and meetings to learn and make valuable connections. Angie even hired a photography icon, an industry hero of hers, to shoot boudoir photos of her. Angie got to be the client and learn through that experience. Now, she’s modeling that experience and the success she’s witnessed with and in others from whom she’s learning. I’d say Angie’s experience is akin to mine with Ted—going to the best.

Secret Sauce #2

Secondly, when/if you meet her in person, you’ll find her to be witty, charming, disarming, and confident. Her personality is also part of her secret sauce to success. These qualities combined and propelled her to successful business owner. You’d better get on board her train now or get run over.

I am not the best designer in the world…but I will die trying to be better and better. Likewise, Angie is not Sue Bryce (THE photographer who successfully brought back and redefined what a glamour shot is), but she’s definitely put herself on track for people to say of their own photography reputation, “I’m no Angie Whitten, but I’m darn good.” Or, “I just hired my photography idol, Angie Whitten, to shoot me!”

Do you see where what I mean and am learning?

Successful people are life-long learners. Life-long learners grow. They adapt.

Since I first saw an article about Angie in South Sound Talk online, I have looked for those clues to success. She isn’t Sue Bryce; I don’t want to move to LA to be around Sue all day everyday to learn from the best glamour photographer. But, I saw something in Angie that I couldn’t pinpoint at the time that sparked, that IT factor, that she was going somewhere and the direction would be up. For anyone to dismiss her and her growth and success as anything other than smart work and learning, learning, learning, they’ve not been paying attention. In 10 years they’ll be clambering for a space at her table, but it will already be filled with other top industry pros who’ve been either helping her learn or learning right along with her.

Playing with the best breeds success.

I’m looking for those clues.

Thanks to getting to know Ted and his genius, I look at people and situations differently. Ted may not even know what he’s taught me that wasn’t discussed in one of the Saturday morning meetings. But, I’ve been watching, listening, and learning beyond the words spoken at the table. I’ve learned from every person who’s sat at the table (or on the couch). They all are teaching me whether they know it or not. If I could list them all by name, I would.

Photo credits: Ran Berkovich   Vladislav Klapin